Thursday, April 09, 2009
Even if you didn't mothball your bike during the cold months, do a maintenance check now
We have a wondrous luxury down here in the American Southwest in that we don't need to mothball our bikes from September to March. We generally ride year 'round and enjoy some of the best weather in the world for motorcycling, all while while our northern friends are snowed in.
Regardless of the lack of atrophy and temperature swing we subject our motorcycles to living in one of the warm areas of Planet Earth, it's still a good idea to give your motorcycle a once-over as the hot months approach. Here's a short list of things to check as the flowers start to bloom:
Coolant. If you have a liquid-cooled bike, inspect your coolant to make sure it isn't starting to break down. Most manufacturers recommend flushing a bike's coolant every other year, but if you live in an extremely hot geographical area, you may need to flush and replace yearly, depending on what type of coolant your bike uses. Keep in mind that the scale and oxidization that forms as a result of coolant decomposition can damage and corrode your engine, so keeping it clean and fresh is a cheap way to ensure reliability.
Hydraulic Fluids. I can't tell you how many bikes I see as I walk around rallies that have brown to black brake and clutch fluid in their reservoirs. This is not good. As hydraulic fluid wears out, it becomes crystalized. As hydraulic multiplication of force is applied to those crystals, they act like sandpaper inside a bike's braking/clutching system. As soon as hydraulic fluids begin to darken, bleed new fluid into the system. Not only does doing so reduce wear on effected systems, it improves their performance.
Oil and Filter. This is a no-brainer. Keep your oil and filter clean all the time, but if your bike only clocks two or three thousand miles annually, this is a good time to do your "yearly" oil change.
Chain. Once or twice a year, most chain-driven motorcycles will need an adjustment to their final drives. When you inspect your bike's chain for excessive slack, check for freedom of movement in the links and the integrity of the master link. If the chain kinks up or is showing too much wear, replace it now. Yes, this is more expensive than a simple fluid change, but it beats having your bike's engine casings smashed open at speed by a failed chain.
Air Filter. A quick visual inspection will tell you whether or not your air filter needs to be cleaned and/or replaced. Out here in West Texas, we have dry, dusty winters, so this is a regular item of inspection for me. Dirty filters rob your motorcycle of horsepower, and can compromise your aspiration system if neglected for long stretches of time.
Tires and Tire Pressure. There is absolutely no excuse for neglecting your motorcycle's tire maintenance. Tires should always be well-treaded, properly inflated, and correctly balanced. I see bald, plugged, under-inflated tires all the time in various motorcycle circles, and I always want to jackslap the riders of those bikes. Yes, tires are costly, but your life is more than worth it. Don't compromise.
Here's wishing everyone a safe, happy, joyous 2009 riding season. May you be blessed with plenty of adventure and good times this year.